Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Jonbenet Ramsey Case and What It Says about America (II): Sexuality

There is another particularly troubling component of the Ramsey case, one that everybody seems to ignore, and that's the sexual aspect. Though it's speculation right now, it seems fair that, given the fact that police determined Ramsey had been sexually abused, and that Karr was arrested via investigation into sexual abuse in Thailand where he was hiding, the sexual component will be heavily played out, both in the media and (if it gets that far) the courts. People will condemn him as a sexual deviant and declare, "how could he do that to a six-year-old girl?"

But where's the blame of the parents here? They become victims with Ramsey's death, but they were the FIRST people to sexualize her. In this particular case, everybody now says, "oh, it's too bad Patsy Ramsey died before she could see this day," but where are the questions about why she made her daughter look like a glorified, wealthy tramp at the age of four, five, six??? That is the nature of all of these absurd childhood beauty pageants. You dress your child up to look like, at best, a "beautiful" and "glamorous" 20-something-year-old object of sexuality, or, at worst, a glorified call girl. You put them in glamorous dresses and skimpy outfits, with obscene amounts of makeup, have them parade around the country, displaying their bodies and their "beauty" in front of numerous adults, and say, "look how beautiful she is!" And then you're shocked, SHOCKED, when others sexually assault these same children?

Yet we in America find no blame for the parents, not just the Ramseys, but all parents who put their children through such experiences (to say nothing of the authoritarian and exploitative nature of the parents who abuse their children in such a way, and make no mistake about it, childhood pageants of the kind Ramsey was in are abuse). We condemn sexual criminals, do all we can to lock up men and women who abuse young boys and girls physically through fondling, kissing, or rape. And certainly, I'm not apologizing for those people - what they do is not very defensible. But it's time we moved beyond condemning just the people who go to jail for such crimes, and also began questioning parents (and even a society) that make their children into sexual objects for the purposes of displays, pageants, and trophies.